Dwight Howard is going to play an important role for the Lakers this season.
But it’s a role. Defend, grab rebounds, on offense set some picks and roll hard to the rim then catch any lobs thrown your way. That’s it. In his last few stops, Howard pushed back against this kind of smaller role, wanting more touches — and more touches in the post, where he is not efficient — and with that (and some leadership questions) becoming somewhat of a distraction. There’s a reason he’s bounced around the league despite putting up decent numbers for a few years in places such as Houston and Charlotte.
The Lakers have bet things are different, although with the non-guaranteed contract they gave him the Lakers have hedged that bet. They are betting he’s healthy — he only played nine games for the Wizards last season and had another back surgery — and they are betting he’ll accept his role. They are betting LeBron James and Anthony Davis can keep him in line. Howard is saying all the right things, but there are plenty of skeptics around the league because Howard has said all the right things before.
Laker coach Frank Vogel, in an interview on the Lakers’ local cable channel Spectrum Sports Net, talked about Howard and the Lakers’ hopes (hat tip NBA Rumors).
Here are the money lines:
“I’m definitely confident he can the play we’ve laid out for him. He’s coming to the Lakers at a very different time in his career. [The] first time he was here, he was on top of the NBA mountain and was a bonafide superstar. Things have changed, he’s later in his career now, he’s a different person, has a different mindset…
“We feel really good about where he’s at as a person. He’sgonna serve a different role. It’s gonna be more of a role player type of role as opposed to being the lead and he understands that.”
We’ll see if he understands that. The rest of the NBA is going Missouri on this: Show me. The Lakers have taken that stance as well with their “summer” contract that pays him every day he’s on the roster but allows them to cut him at any point.
If Howard is healthy and accepts his role, he and JaVale McGee can form a solid front line that can play 30ish minutes a night — until the Lakers unleash Davis at the five, which will be their best lineup. It can work. But as with a lot of the Lakers’ role players this season, there are a lot of questions to be answered still. And in the West, not a lot of margin for error.